It’s no secret that the government uses designs to control the way you act. There are just so many ways we’re being manipulated by the powers. So, strap on that tinfoil hat and set your facial expression to ‘suspicious’. Here are 10 ways governments control your behavior with genius designs.
10 – The coughing billboard
In Sweden, the government REALLY don’t want you to smoke. Smoking is banned in restaurants, bars, and malls, and they’re talking about extending the ban to outdoor public areas like bus stops and parks.
So they had no problem when a Swedish pharmacy chain came up with a clever idea to shame people into kicking the habit. They picked a video billboard on a busy street in Stockholm and installed a smoke detector in it.
When the detector senses cigarette smoke, the video image shows a man wincing disgustedly, coughing noisily, before showing some products aimed at helping people give up.
If being coughed at in public doesn’t shame you, nothing will.
9 – Underground music
In the mid 1990s, the people running Montreal’s underground train system, the Metro, came up with a novel idea to get rid of gangs of young people committing crimes on the network.
They decided to pipe classical music through the speakers in the stations. The thought was, young people don’t like classical music, so they’ll stop hanging around. In addition, the people that are there will be calmed by the soothing music, they won’t get stressed by the crowded trains and delays.
Funnily enough, this plan worked. It worked so well in fact, that other countries decided to do it too. Now if you travel on the London Underground, you may get to hear Tchaikovsky as you wait for your tube.
8 – The Mosquito
As you get older, the range of frequencies you can hear gets smaller. Does this explain why all pop music sounds appalling when you hit 30? I don’t know.
Anyway, young people can hear types of sound that older people can’t, and this gave Welshman Howard Stapleton an idea when his daughter was harassed by teenagers hanging around their local store. Mr Stapleton invented a device that emitted a high-pitched noise that you could only hear if you were under 25.
Plus, if you could hear it, you would hate it. It would make your ears hurt and your headache. He called this device ‘The Mosquito’ and installed it by the store.
Sure enough, the teenagers immediately decided to hang around somewhere else. The Mosquito was soon snapped up by stores and local governments around the world, where it has helped to reduce teenage crime.
It has caused controversy, as it may be causing nausea and ear problems to people that hear it. Some believe it infringes on the human rights of young people. It also inspired the ‘Teen Buzz’ ringtone, that only young people can hear.
7 – The circular bridge
To South America now. Back in the day, if you wanted to get from the cities of Rocha and Maldonado in Southern Uruguay, you’d have to catch a raft across this lagoon, the Laguna Garzon.
In 2016, the government built a bridge between the two shores, but rather than build it straight like most bridges, they built it circular, like one big loop.
The reason for this, it’s harder to drive fast when you’re not going in a straight line, you have to slow down. The government wanted drivers to go slow, so they could enjoy the spectacular panoramic views. They also built pedestrian walkways on both sides of the loop, so people could walk down and enjoy the scenery.
This is an example of a government designing something to make us happy rather than control us.
6 – Placebo buttons
We like to feel we’re in control… even when we’re not. The powers that be like you to think you’re in control too. That’s why we have placebo buttons.
A placebo button is a button that looks like it does something, placed where a button that does something should be placed. There’s a difference between this button and a normal button, however. This button doesn’t do anything at all.
© PX Here
For example, pedestrian crossings have buttons with ‘walk’ on them. When we want to cross the road, we press them, and soon enough, the traffic stops. However, in most cases, the lights are controlled automatically. The traffic would’ve stopped anyway, but we like the illusion that we made it stop.
In New York, nearly every pedestrian crossing is automatic. In London, they’re automatic, except late at night. The government has taken the buttons away though because there would be an outcry.
We like to be in control. Rumour has it that the heating controls in many offices and the open and close door buttons in elevators are placebos too.
5 – Pink paint in prison
Normally, the only people you’d expect to sleep in a pink bedroom would be little girls, but the government of Switzerland had other ideas. Back in 2013, they painted 30 of their prison cells a lovely shade of pink, called Baker-Miller Pink. This was part of a project called ‘Cool Down Pink’ because the color pink has a calming effect on even the hardest criminals. People go into the pink cell seething with anger, 15 minutes later they’re calm as can be.
This isn’t a new idea. Some jails in America have had pink cells for decades, and the color pink has been used to control minds in other areas.
In fact, a number of studies have researched whether such colors affect the way people felt, for example, one Alexander Schauss had 153 volunteers hold out their arms in front of them and resist someone pushing their arms down. 151 out of the 153 were weaker when they were looking at the pink, giving some evidence for the idea that the color affects our emotions. However, the theory has been retested with varying results, so nothing is conclusive.
Nonetheless, the use of the color is widespread, even the college football team at the University of Iowa Hawkeyes is famous for having a pink visitors’ locker room.
The coach had it painted pink, hoping it would put the Hawkeyes’ opponents in a ‘passive mood’ before the game.
4 – Blue light
In large doses, blue light can be harmful to our eyes and our sleeping patterns. That’s why our smartphones have a night setting, cutting out the blue light.
However, now and again, a bit of flickering, high energy, blue light can be a force for good. Some long road tunnels have blue lights installed in them to keep drivers alert, not dropping off to sleep.
© PX Here
In Japan, authorities installed bright blue lights in railway stations where there was a high occurrence of suicides from people jumping on to the tracks. When people stepped on to the edge of the platform, it triggered the blue light.
In this case, blue light is said to have a positive effect on your mood, so it might just stop someone from taking that fatal step on to the track. It may seem like an optimistic idea but its actually not so far fetched… during the four years after installing the blue lights, there was an 84% decrease in suicides, so superficially, it does seem to work.
3 – The Portland Loo
There have been high tech public toilets before, like the self-cleaning ones San Francisco installed in the 90s, but nothing like the Portland Loo. This public toilet, native to Portland, Oregon, was designed to be as inhospitable as possible. However, it’s become an object of pride for Portlanders, with its own blog and Twitter account.
This public toilet is indestructible, made of heavy, solid steel, it can’t be damaged by a baseball bat, can’t be defaced with graffiti, and can’t be destroyed by fire.
It doesn’t have a sink or running water, just a spigot on the outside panel. It doesn’t have a mirror. Mirrors can be smashed. Bars on the top and bottom mean you can see if people are inside.
The point of all this? Many public toilets in America became dens for crime, drug use and homelessness. The Portland Loo means people can use the facilities, but absolutely nothing else.
2 – The phantom roundabout
Despite ever-increasing punishments, like fines, or losing your license, some people still like to drive like maniacs. This places themselves and other road users in danger.
So governments around the world are resorting to unconventional ideas to get people to drive sensibly. Take this example from Cambridge in the UK.
People had been driving too fast down this road, so the government decided to put a roundabout on it. Except, it isn’t a roundabout, it’s just different colored bricks, which make it look like a roundabout is there.
The thought was, drivers would think there’s a roundabout and instinctively slow down. People would be confused into driving carefully.
1 – Crossing the road
We established earlier that many pedestrian crossing buttons don’t actually do anything. To make up for it, the government has taken steps to make crossing the road an ‘experience’.
Every summer in London’s Trafalgar Square, they have the Pride Festival, a celebration of the LGBT community. To mark this event, they changed the lights on 50 pedestrian crossings from the usual picture of a green man crossing a road, to two green men crossing a road holding hands. There were also signs for two women crossing the road, and the symbols for transgender people.
Londoners loved these additions to their main square, so the government decided to leave them up for the foreseeable future.
Another English city, Bristol, has gone one step further, or should I say one dance step further? They’re building a disco pedestrian crossing, where lights and music encourage people to dance across the road. It will certainly give the drivers who have had to stop something to look at.
That’s the end of our 10 ways governments control your behavior with genius designs. Which one did you like best? Can you think of any more? Leave us a comment to let us know.